The Congress is not as elated by its win in the two by-elections in Madhya Pradesh, as it was over the Rajasthan wins.
No help from BSP
The Congress is not as elated by its win in the two by-elections in Madhya Pradesh, as it was over the Rajasthan wins. Although the Congress retained both seats, the margin was considerably lower than in the 2013 Assembly polls. Contrary to its assumption that the BJP would be at a disadvantage because the BSP didn’t put up candidates, the voting figures suggest the contrary. This is worrying for the Congress whose poll strategy for 2019 is to focus on the SC vote. Rahul Gandhi has gone out of his way to support Independent SC leaders like Jignesh Mevani. The Congress needs Mayawati for 2019, but the BSP has not responded to requests for an anti-BJP front. In fact, Mayawati will probably damage the Congress’s chances in Karnataka by forming an unusual alliance with HD Deve Gowda’s JD(S). Some attribute her negative attitude to apprehensions regarding the CBI cases against her family, but there is more to it. She is a shrewd politician who knows her party grew by capturing the Congress’s SC vote bank. She doesn’t want the Congress to grab it back.
Age old exception
BS Yeddyurappa, the BJP’s CM candidate for Karnataka, turned 75 on February 27 but viewed his birthday with some trepidation. PM Narendra Modi has made clear that 75 should be the retirement age for those in office. Fortunately for Yeddyurappa, he is the exception. Modi attended a farmers’ rally in Davangere to wish Yeddyurappa and endorse him as the CM candidate.
Most of the billboards and tweets with birthday greetings did not specify his age, since the party leadership sent out an informal message to this effect. One of the exceptions who mentioned 75 in his congratulatory tweet was Union minister Ananth Kumar, a long-time rival of Yeddyurappa in the state.
No special status
The rift between Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu and the BJP is out in the open. M Venkaiah Naidu is no longer there to act as the trouble-shooter. The CM has made several requests for a meeting with the PM, but he only gets to interact with Amit Shah or Arun Jaitley. Naidu’s complaint is that the Centre has not released enough funds for the state, although Manmohan Singh had promised Andhra special status upon bifurcation. Jaitley’s explanation is that because of the finance commission’s recommendations, his hands are tied. Naidu met finance commission chairman NK Singh to plead his case. But Singh’s point is that it was his predecessor YV Reddy, who is in fact from AP, who put a ban on granting special status to states so that they could not demand additional funding. Naidu, who has spent extravagantly on building his capital Amravati, finds himself pressed for funds. His political rival YS Jaganmohan Reddy of the YSR Congress has put pressure on him by taking out a yatra and threatening that all his MLAs will resign in April if the state is not granted special status.
Early polls out
PM Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind’s proposal for simultaneous polls as an economy measure, followed by ICCR president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe organising a seminar on the subject, led to speculation that the date for parliamentary polls might be forwarded to coincide with the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh at the year end. But new chief election commissioner OP Rawat estimates that it will take at least a year for the Election Commission to prepare for countrywide polls after a legislative decision to this effect. Even the required Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail units, which will be mandatory for the next elections, will be ready only by September 2018.
No work, no stay
Gujarat Deputy CM Nitin Patel’s displeasure at not getting the finance portfolio was well reported and eventually the BJP leadership gave in. Less attention has been paid to Purshottam Solanki, another minister in Vijay Rupani’s government who is sulking. Solanki, a minister in the Gujarat government since 1998, was appointed as minister of state, fisheries, a position he held even when Narendra Modi was CM. Like Patel, Solanki did not initially take oath as minister. Though he has since been persuaded to be sworn in, he attends office infrequently and is often missing at Cabinet meetings and from the Assembly. When asked about his frequent absences, he replied the office doesn’t have much work. The BJP can ill-afford to antagonise this influential leader of the